By Russ Thurman
The industry is experiencing a much different 2017 than anticipated — dreaded — before last year’s national election. Prior to the election of President Trump, most, if not everyone in the industry, believed Hillary Clinton would be the next president. The industry was braced for protracted, high-intensity and expensive anti-gun/industry battles.
Yes, 2017 is a much different year and the industry has much to celebrate. Bryan Tucker, Davidson’s CEO, however, has sound advice for how we should mark this historic election.
“We in the firearms industry should not gloat over this election. We must conduct ourselves with class and as professionals,” Tucker said.
In addition, all anti-gun/industry battles are far from over.
“We cannot get complacent, because the threats have not gone away. There likely will be more proliferation of state initiatives, because of a lack of confidence that there will be any federal initiatives concerning gun control,” Tucker added.
The election of Trump had an initial negative impact on the stock market, with major downturns. The drop also hit major publicly traded firearm companies.
“We’re not overly upset by what is happening with the share price, although it is somewhat ironic given that we invested heavily to influence a favorable election outcome, which then resulted in the share price decline,” said Mike Fifer, Ruger CEO, the day after the election. “It is a classic stock market emotional response and soon enough the rational response will take its place. We’re okay with trading some short-term pain for the long-term good outcomes of more secure gun rights for individuals and fewer national-level political and legislative attacks on the industry.”
Like much of the stock market, firearm stocks began climbing within days of the election. However, the question remains: How much impact will a non-threatening White House and pro-gun majorities in Congress have on firearm and ammunition sales?
The removal of Clinton-promised anti-gun attacks and the “Obama Factor” translates to sales likely “returning to normal.” The challenge is, as it’s always been, defining “normal.”
Manufacturers, anticipating a Clinton presidency, significantly ramped up production and distributors and dealers increased inventories in the final quarter of 2016.
Fortunately, a great deal of that inventory moved at the beginning of the 2016 buying season. Manufacturers offered an abundance of “sizzling” deals during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Storefront dealers promoted deep discounts and reported consumers were expanding their product range.
“We see those guys who maybe would have bought an AR if Hillary won, buying lever-action and bolt-action riles and shotguns,” Mike Goschinski told The Week Magazine. Goschinski is the owner and founder of Fin Feather Fur Outfitters in Ohio.
The FBI reported NICS conducted 185,713 background checks on Black Friday, breaking a record set in 2015.
Beyond holiday and special sales events, what do “normal” sales look like for 2017? What we won’t see is consumers waiting six deep at sales counters anxious to purchase a “may be banned” firearm — that is, except in states where anti-gun battles continue. Also, terrorist attacks and increased lawlessness could dramatically drive sales.
However, for the most part, and for the first time in many years, sales will stabilize this year.
On the political front, it’s important for the industry to remain engaged.
“While Hillary Clinton isn’t moving into the White House and Sen. Chuck Schumer isn’t the majority leader, now isn’t the time to withdraw from the field,” said Larry Keane, NSSF senior VP for government and public affairs, and assistant secretary and general counsel.
Keane points out it has been many years since we’ve had a president who promised to protect the Second Amendment, and pro-gun majorities in both Congressional houses.
“Now is the time to press the advantage and advance our legislative and regulatory priorities,” Keane said. “We must recognize that while we have won this battle, the culture war over the Second Amendment and the future of our hunting heritage and shooting sports traditions continues. And, there is a second front at the state level in places like California and Massachusetts that cannot be ignored.”
During the November election, four states — California, Maine, Nevada and Washington — had gun issues on their ballots, with all of them passing except a call for expanded background checks in Maine.
The week after the national election, the NSSF held two webinars, outlining the impact of the election on national and state firearm/industry issues. The webinars are available to NSSF members at www.nssf.org/members/webinars.
In April, NSSF will conduct its annual Congressional Fly-In on Capitol Hill. Mark your calendars (April 4–5) and plan to join others in the industry to meet with senators and members of Congress to ensure our voice is heard on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit www.nssf.org/govrel.